Home Sweet Home – Part 33 – The Nuances of Closet Lighting

The other day, I walked into my closet and hit the light switch. Nothing changed. No, the light wasn’t burnt out. There wasn’t an electrical problem either. My closet was simply too dark for my 55+ eyes.

As many of you know, the lens of our eyes thickens as we age. It starts in our thirties. As the lens thickens, it lets in less light. A sixty-year-old needs six times as much light as a twenty-year-old. This is a gradual process, and before you know it, you’re in a “romantically” dim restaurant and can’t read the menu without blinding other guests with your iPhone flashlight. In addition to emitting less light, the thickened lens can’t bend and flex like it used to, making it harder to focus on items up close.

But back to my closet. During the walk through of our home several years ago (please note–I was pre-50), my closet with white walls, white shelves, and lightly colored carpet was brightly lit. We thought we had made a smart lighting decision as we didn’t want one of those ugly fluorescent lights because we knew they didn’t provide full spectrum light. Full spectrum allows you to more accurately see color, helping you avoid wearing mismatched colors.

We also didn’t elect to hang a pretty pendant fixture in our closets, deciding to stay utilitarian with our closet lighting and save the decorative lighting for other rooms. Based upon its size, we installed two fixtures in my closet, each with two sixty-watt incandescent lights.

What could possibly go wrong? Five years older and a lot of shopping – that’s what. I happen to wear a lot of dark colors – especially black. These dark colors consume precious light to the point that my bright and airy closet was more like a cave. To make matters worse, the top row of clothes was blocking the light to the bottom row of clothes where all my black tops were hung. Once again, I would find myself bringing out flashlight feature on my phone just to be able to select a garment from the bottom row – always a humbling experience.

Of course, the best option for closet lighting is the LED rope light above each rod. However, this is not always easy to add after the fact! And adding a higher wattage incandescent bulb could work, but it also produces more heat than the fixture was designed for, creating a possible fire hazard. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to find an LED fixture that fits the same size. This was my solution, swap the fixtures out and voila–there was good light in my closet again. The old sixty-watt incandescent bulb only gave off 800 lumens of light and were amber in color. My new LED fixture emits 2000 lumens resulting in more light, fuller spectrum, less heat and energy consumption.

Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an older one, adequate closet lighting is a must.

And while you are at, think about the configuration of your shelving and built-ins. Making the most of your primary bedroom closet will serve you well for years to come!

Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog